Postcards, aka Analogue Microblogging

I have mentioned in this blog previously how I try to send a postcard once a week to one of my best friends back in Florida, as he’s serving prison time for some sort of non-violence offence. It’s now gotten me in the habit of writing postcards to some other friends of mine in far-flung places.

Postcards: The Original Microblog.

assorted postcardsI’ve taken to the habit of carrying around a blank postcard or two, usually slipped into the pages of whatever book or magazine I’m carrying around, so that if I’m in a pub or café on my own, I have time to jot off a quick piece of personal correspondence to a friend in between sips of strong ale or black coffee. I get several 80p stamps at a time from the post office, covering the cost of a slip of card stock with an image on one side, and my neat yet highly stylised handwriting on the back.

If we all must type addresses out in the future, I suspect my handwriting may have something to do with it.

I love postcards. I love correspondence through the mail. Now that much of my work involves being on the computer a lot, it’s a relief to be able to shut the laptop but still be able to engage with people–and not just anyone, but a communication between you and the intended recipient, with possibly a nosey postal worker, curious cellmate or friend of the recipient along the way if it’s a postcard. With my laptop open, it’s hard for me to focus on a single e-mail–I flit between browser tabs like a hummingbird of information, starting off e-mails only to find myself reading an article about The National’s new album, checking if anything’s happening on Facebook (nope) or seeing the latest cat meme someone’s sent me via Twitter. Away from my computer, I’m more likely to ignore the noises my phone makes while I finish writing, although I won’t ignore the sandwich I’m getting at the café I’m in.

There are limits.

There’s something really special about receiving a letter or postcard in the mail that has yet to be equalled through electronic means. This isn’t to say I don’t appreciate e-mails from friends–I do. But there is a small sense of ceremony involved with receiving letters when you cut through the envelope, unfold the paper and see a handwritten note that can sometimes reveal so much about what the person is up to and how that person is doing. Perhaps there’s a drawing, but frequently there might be underlines or boldly-written text that show a great deal more emphasis than just hitting “Command + B” on a keyboard. There will frequently be evidence of human error, as the writer has crossed out a word or the start of a word, or drawn a little word above a space with a “^” below.

Handwritten correspondence can show how a mind unfurls–hurried or languid, awkward, unplanned, excited: a word or two crammed into the right because the writer didn’t realise there wasn’t enough space (something I’m guilty of all the time), ink smudges from the sender’s thumbs or received through transit, the emphasis of a word or phrase that presses against the paper so hard, it can be felt on the other side of the postcard or sheet of paper.

Postcards are relatively cheap in London, with the exception of the small-scale Etsy-esque ones found in craft-tinged shops in Hackney, but some of those are well-worth their premium, particularly if supporting a local artist whose work you actually quite like. Being the big nerd for stationery I am, I tend to pick up postcards at exhibitions and art shows if I can. The V&A tends to have some pretty good ones. I’ve bought a few from Rough Trade East as well, and bought a booklet of postcards from Magma in Covent Garden.

Anyone have some recommendations on where they’ve gotten good postcards? Anyone have a favourite place for stationery in general? Would be good to know some other options, particularly as a lot of the stationery I do have might be a bit too twee to send to someone in prison. Thanks in advance.

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